Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
I couldn't believe it! Now I was standing here again in front of my mirror; it was as if I was regularly getting ready for a theatre performance. Unfortunately Lucius was right: respect for a person stemmed from how they appeared, acted and presented themselves. You could control a lot with your appearance and I submitted to that completely without grumbling, because I saw the correctness of the statement.
Draco and I had made ourselves comfortable in the library with a crackling fire after the meeting in the Dark Manor. I had needed that to chase the chill from my joints that had snaked up my legs and found its way inside me, deep inside me. The Dark Manor was not only dark, but bitterly cold. We had spoken little, not to say nothing at all, knowing Severus and Lucius would take care of that when they were finally released.
After a while, as expected, the two dark figures had stormed our retreat and appeared excited, but also reassured, about how it had gone.
They scolded me for my humorous thoughts about the throne, but they were right - although I told them that I believed HE had been amused and that HE had punished me with Crabbe and Goyle in what I considered a very humane way.
That made both Lucius and Severus raise an eyebrow and both showed their amazement that I had seen through the Dark Lord.
"Don't underestimate her," Draco interjected, "she was playing Avery too!" Which resulted in Lucius reprimanding me sternly.
"Hermione, don't push it! You're irritating them beyond measure."
"Who doesn't the minx irritate to no end?" came the cynical, very ambiguous interjection from - yes, from whom I wonder? I hope you can guess, because his dark eyes were flashing venomously at me. I would have loved to give in to the childish desire and stick my tongue out at him.
I knew that myself. However, I also had to show that just because I was an inferior, filthy Mudblood didn't mean I was stupid! I would fight and I had to fight and my men could only help me so much. I had been in dangerous situations ALONE often enough; I didn't need them. Not at all. I didn't want to be dependent on their protection or their help.
It might be arrogant of me to be so sure of myself, but I had to be, otherwise I might as well throw in the towel. Fortunately, the two of them left us alone and we spent the rest of the evening in harmonious peace.
The next day brought a lot of news, which I was able to understand much better than I would have been able to otherwise, thanks to my latest occupation as a Death Eater. Some new sources of information had opened up for me.
Yesterday, an article had appeared commemorating Amelia Bones and mourning her death and condemning the brutal murder of the "single, middle-aged lady," which was carried out with ice coldness, and also bringing the sad and tragic family history of the Bones to the table. For example, Amelia's brother, Edgar Bones, had been killed in the first war, along with almost his entire family. Poor Susan, whom I had been able to get to know a little thanks to the DA. She had already suffered a lot in the war. I felt sorry for her, especially knowing which four madmen had murdered her aunt and, well, I don't think it was a quick death that had been granted to the old lady. There wasn't a line to spare for Vance, as she hadn't held such a high office. There was just an obituary of her murder with the dates and that was it.
Today the Daily Prophet had announced that a group of giants had roughed up the west coast yesterday. The Muggles would think it was a hurricane. The action had been successful in that the Death Eaters had caused trouble, but the Ministry, with the help of many, many Aurors, had managed to control the giants and put them to flight. At least something that was good news for once and Macnair would be in trouble for his failure. I really couldn't suppress a nasty grin.
Further back in the paper, the successor to Amelia Bones as the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had been revealed. Unsurprisingly, his name was Pius Thicknesse. Lucius had done it! He was such a bad boy! I congratulated him with a kiss, which he was only too happy to accept. He seemed in excellent spirits all day.
One thing you had to give the Dark Lord credit for, his machinery was running like clockwork. The meeting had been two days ago and almost everything had already been carried out as discussed. Draco would not be able to talk to Greyback until this evening. The moon had been full two days ago and the pack rested the day after, so Draco couldn't meet with them until today.
I wasn't worried, neither were Lucius or Severus. They trusted Draco's skill and ability in negotiating with the dangerous werewolf, whom I had been able to research in old newspaper articles since he had assisted the Dark Lord in the first war. I too would have gone, had I been ordered to, and I would have been pissed, had they tried to coddle me. He had left a few minutes ago, wearing a black battle suit and a robe cloaking him, to set off on his mission.
Thus, I was standing in front of the mirror and pulled my ponytail tight. On an assignment, I wouldn't bother with hair hanging into my face. I looked at my battle overall, which, thanks to the Twins' help, I had painstakingly woven with their new technique to ward off light to moderate curses. Draco's had been prepared in the same way. Harry, the Twins, and I had sacrificed many hours to get it done for everyone, until they had allowed Daphne to help, and they had explicitly helped me with my suit, as they felt mine couldn't be protected enough.
Their concern had touched me deeply, but to my chagrin I had to agree with them. I was the one who was likely to be on the open battlefield far too often at the moment, and on the wrong side too, as I was only too aware.
Personally, I thought I looked like Catwoman in the thing that had a lace-up waist and my boots had thick heels. All in all, it was very tight and high-necked. The sleeves were so long that the leather went over my wrist. Wearing that thing should have made me faint in the summer, but what was magic for? And you may have guessed who had designed it: Astoria together with the Twins.
I shouldn't have given my consent; I really felt like a dominatrix in a sex club. I mean, it looked hot, it left little to the imagination, but the most important thing was: it was worth its weight in gold in battle. It moved with me and was as supple as a second skin. For now, I hid my body under my big, bad Death Eater robe, which was different from the one we had worn to the audience with the Dark Lord. It had short sleeves so that it did not hinder in battle. My daggers were at my thighs, my school wand was attached to my right forearm, my real wand to my left arm. Yes, I was well equipped.
I did not allow myself to show anything like uncertainty or nervousness. I knew what I was getting myself into today and this scared me to the core. Yet did I have any other choice? Unlike before, I was ready and compelled to take the lives of innocent and uninvolved people; I was again losing a little more of my innocence. If I didn't do it, however, the game would be over before it really began. As I had been doing for the last two days, I skilfully pushed the thought away from my mind and was only concerned with how I could most effectively bring down the bridge and no longer with what consequences this would have. No, I could not and did not want to see those at the moment.
As I walked down into the foyer, to my amazement, Severus and Lucius were waiting for me at the bottom of the large round table made of smooth, white-beige marble, which made me pause briefly on the stairs in wonder, and at my abrupt movement, my robe flared while they both looked at me with a stoic gaze.
"You didn't see Draco off," I heard a reproach in Lucius' voice then.
"I saw him off in our room," I defended myself.
"Aren't you worried?" I heard Severus ask cautiously and I was now slowly descending the stairs, knowing my legs were visible in the shiny black leather and already I saw Lucius' expression darken and I answered quickly.
"No, I know Draco will be able to deal with the furry creatures," I said, standing unreservedly behind my boyfriend.
When I approached the table, Lucius had already stepped in front of me. The speed with which he had positioned himself there surprised me. Now he simply opened my robe and brushed it back, thus exposing my clothes. I felt uncomfortably naked when he touched me like this.
"What is this?" The question came terribly softly from his now very thin lips and I saw the storm raging in his grey eyes.
"Hem," I cleared my throat. "...This is my battle gear, Lucius, and I know as a Malfoy I should be wearing a dress, but please don't ask me to do that in battle! I don't see myself swinging my legs in a skirt, imagine me getting tangled up?!" I could see that he understood my argument, but it didn't agree with him. At that moment Severus appeared beside Lucius and whistled appreciatively.
"Hot, I don't think those guys have ever seen anything like that," was his only comment, which made Lucius growl and was so not to my liking. Emancipation seemed to have passed by the obstinate pure-blooded wizards without a trace.
"Stop it already! If I need to, I can fight perfectly fine and otherwise I won't show anyone what I'm wearing underneath," I said and stepped back so that Lucius' hands slipped off my shoulders and pulled the robe back on properly. I wouldn't argue about that here; in an emergency it was my life at stake, after all. They were terrible in their possessive way. No, they didn't guard with jealousy what belonged to them, at all.... You had to be named Malfoy to tell yourself that.
"When she's right, she's right, Lucius, you know that," Severus interjected and Lucius took a step back at Severus' true words. That was the moment the doors opened and a snarling Avery climbed the steps of the entrance portal, scowling.
"You're late Avery... or should I be pleased that you're appearing at all?" I allowed no greeting from the gentlemen before reprimanding the newcomer and stepped away from my two sourpusses.
Taking a deliberately slow pace, I pulled my hood over my tightly tied hair and pulled out my mask, which I had been wearing concealed in my robe, and looked promptly at Avery, who hadn't even made it into the Manor yet and only glanced briefly at Lucius and Severus, hinting at a quick bow. As I rushed past him now, disguised in my beautiful mask, he followed on my heels down the avenue, grumbling.
I knew I was being unfriendly, but no one here would thank me for being nice. They were all cutthroats here and they would love to stab me in the back.
I had been informed by my men that the lower Death Eaters knew nothing for certain about Lucius, the Manor, or anyone else, and that the meeting place and training centre was a cave. I had wondered, at first - but then I didn't. Somehow it was clear, as secretive as they all were, that they did not want anyone to know who was a Death Eater and who was not.
The three of them had been kind enough to give me the coordinates so that I could apparate before Avery caught up with me. So I arrived at Dan-yr-Ogof, a large, sixteen-kilometre [ten-mile] long cave system located in the south of Wales.
It was... Wow, I was impressed. It was quite low, the ceiling was only a little bit above my head. The entrance to the cave was at a point where a waterfall came out of the rock face, which I knew, after a short run, flowed into the Tawe River. The stone walls of the rock face were green, overgrown with moss. It all seemed very mystical and I felt as if I had landed in a Merlin fairy tale.
I waited until Avery appeared. He was not wearing a mask, but no ten horses would make me take off mine voluntarily and they would never address me as anything other than Mudblood, I knew that and so it was fine with me that my identity would remain a secret.
The grumpy and bad-tempered blond man beckoned me to follow him. He seemed to really like me. At least he wasn't the talkative type, I thought nastily.
I followed him to a small, dark opening in the rock wall that led into a large passage high above the river. Here everything was damp, shiny and musty; the environment was truly not homely.
The stalagmites and stalactites were impressive nonetheless, the way they grew down from the ceiling and up from the floor. These dripstones were huge! I walked carefully along the slippery floor. Torches had been placed on the shiny wet walls and so we went deeper and deeper into the cave.
When we arrived in a really impressive hall, teeming with strangers, I stopped for a moment, perplexed. Further back I saw Bellatrix jumping around and teaching people - wizards - something and making them fall on mats. In another corner, bonfires blazed on the ground. If we weren't magicians, it shouldn't have been possible, with the wetness here.
It looked, I thought, like something out of a bad horror movie that the Death Eaters had seemingly set up their training camp here. I was still lost in my reflections when a sneering Avery turned to me.
"Amazed, Mudblood?" he confirmed my assumption that this was my name for them here. I didn't answer right away as I saw a few former classmates from years past from Hogwarts and faltered in surprise that it wasn't just Slytherins I saw there. And yet, fate would have it that I... I, Hermione, Mudblood by birth, stood far above them. It would have been hilarious if I hadn't just felt like crying.
"Mmhmpf," I had decided not to say anything to that and so a meaningless snort sounded from my mask before I snapped at him impatiently. "What now? Are we going soon? Otherwise we won't have to leave at all," I hissed rather crossly. Suddenly I felt someone at my back, instantly stiffening, ready to defend myself at a moment's notice.
"Why so impatient, Mudblood?" I chalked up the mocking voice to Rabastan. By now, some had noticed us, as my mask did stand out. I was the only one wearing it. Bellatrix became aware of me and glared at me, lasciviously licking her lips as if she wanted to start a fight with me right away, then slowly let her finger run over her throat. I wanted to show her my sarcastic smile. Did she think that would scare me? Without turning away from her, I spoke to the Rabastan standing behind me, still fixing her rigidly.
"How do people address you without confusing you with your brother?" I wanted to know. Lestrange? As I said, that would bring both of them. I doubted that I would be allowed to call him Rabastan.
"What do you want?" he said, not answering my question.
"I know your sister-in-law wants to play with me, but I don't have time today. Keep her away from me," I demanded cheekily and saw Avery, who was standing facing me, widen his blue eyes at my statement.
"What do I get in return?" Rabastan enquired haughtily.
"Nothing besides me not killing her today," I quipped, leaving the two men behind me and walking on, looking at some things curiously. I noticed the inquisitive stares that followed me, of course. Not only my mask, but also the fact that I was almost the only woman besides Bellatrix who was here made me something exotic.
I watched from the corner of my eye as the two men talked animatedly and Rabastan finally moved towards Bellatrix in a sulky fashion.
"My men to me!" I saw a good fifteen people rise and march to Avery at his call and I rolled my eyes. What did he think we were going to destroy? Nor did anyone from either the Order or the Ministry know we were planning this. What nonsense! It was in and out, quick, efficient, chop, chop. What were we supposed to do with seventeen of us on the scene?! I curled the corners of my mouth deprecatingly, which I just didn't show to anyone and no-one would have seen because of my mask anyway.
Turning around, I hurried to the group that was gathering with my robe billowing, and now gazed at Avery.
"She's in charge. Orders of the Dark Lord, so everyone listens to her command," Avery drawled menacingly. Well, he was good at that. I saw him huff contemptuously. Who had said he would make it easy for me?
"Thank you Avery," I breathed softly, noticing that everyone was now listening to us and I was being eyed twice as curiously as before. Rabastan and Rodolphus, meanwhile, were trying to distract Bellatrix. Avery had probably reminded them that if I failed, they'd be in trouble too.
"Who are your most trusted men? ... Eight will do," I said coldly.
"WHAT?" he roared.
"Yes. What are you planning, a siege? We'll destroy the bridge and then retreat!" I saw him standing in front of me with his face now bright red and his hands clenched into fists. "Avery, eight men, good, fast! That's what I expect, and don't forget, when it gets pitch dark, there are fewer and fewer casualties. Is that what the Dark Lord wants? If you don't get moving soon, I'll do it alone," I threatened without hesitation, standing there arrogantly as Lucius usually did.
"Oh, and how are you going to manage that, you show-off?" Bellatrix had crept up on us and I turned to her as if in slow motion.
"Simple. With this," I pulled out a bag containing a set of explosives I had been procuring over the last few days and preparing for my purposes "You see, I don't need you or your people, but the Dark Lord has commanded and I do want to be nice and give you a chance to take the credit. But if you don't want to," I shrugged provocatively, "well, I'll do it on my own."
"Who do you think you are, inferior mud-" she shrieked.
"I am a MALFOY! Failure is not an option," I told her coldly. Whispering started, as this information was of no use to anyone. There was no woman left in the family, as the public knew. Her husband put a hand on Bellatrix' shoulder and whispered something to her, whereupon she laughed maniacally.
"What my stupid brother-in-law and his son were thinking..." She hiccupped with excitement and I rolled my eyes in annoyance. Crazy people could be so exhausting.
"You, you, you two, you four at the back, come here. The rest of you find something else to do," Avery seemed to have given it some thought and was now looking at me. I simply left Bellatrix standing there, walked over to the men and told them my plan. We left the surreal cave, which seemed to be from another time, behind us relatively quickly. We apparated in front of the cave, because thanks to all sorts of spells you couldn't get out from inside.
It was going to be relatively unspectacular: we would appear out of nowhere, two for each pillar, and with Defodio, Confringo and Bombarda Maxima we would blow up the Brockdale Bridge and thus bring it down spectacularly. I would only have used the Muggles' explosives if I hadn't had any help, but now that they were getting their arses moving after all, it should be fine with me. As always, I had prepared for every eventuality.
The motto was: explode the targets together and leave immediately. I was glad that the idiots had taken so long. It was now nine o'clock in the evening and thus the evening traffic was over. Perfect, so the casualties would be manageable. I could blame it on Avery's slowness and Bellatrix's annoying manner and would wash my hands of the fact that we were so late to get going. I didn't allow myself to breathe a sigh of relief just yet, though.
Flashing curses rushed at the bridge; one chasing the other, destroying it with utter precision. I closed my eyes despondently, knowing that the people still on the bridge were doomed and I was sending them to their deaths! However, I didn't dare contemplate it, because I had to do it, as I was only too aware. So I aimed and muttered the next spell, heard it hitting its target and the metal groaning loudly.
I tried to block out the sound of the splintering metal and the painful crunching in my ears of the bending steel, the loud, panicked cacophony of people trapped in their cars and condemned to death, desperately screaming for their lives. When the first parts of the bridge splashed loudly into the river the job was done. It was time to retreat quickly and so I disappeared from this battlefield, turning my back on my heinous and gruesome deed. Well, what can I say, I arrived dusty and wet at the gates of the Manor. Having bade farewell to the men who had performed this valiant act with me by thanking them in front of the cave, and having also received a nod from Avery, I had promptly apparated back here.
How did it go? We had been quick. The curses had been carried out immediately as I had ordered; the bridge had swayed as the metal burst loudly and was blown up, then had collapsed thundering and rumbling under the shrieks of the people on it and fallen into the river in a cloud of debris. BAM! ... That was it. There was no great joy in that for me.
After that I had given the signal to retreat and not a second too soon, because the first aurors were already arriving. I, who was in charge of the mission, was the last to leave. Tonks had stared me straight in the eye and shouted something. She was lucky it had been me. Anyone else would have cast a Killing Curse at her, but I just dissolved and disappeared, leaving the Aurors to deal with the chaos that had ensued and to recover the dead and injured.
As I opened the door and let the wet, dirty robe slide off my shoulders while I was still in the foyer, Draco came out of the small drawing room and a smile immediately spread across his lips. I too was glad to see him in one piece after his assignment.
They grilled me about what it had been like and I described everything to them. I thought I saw something like pride on the faces of the three of them. Having not been allowed to go and change, I had everyone's eyes glued to my battle suit, how delightful. I proudly told them about how I had held my own and about the fact that the bridge no longer existed.
Draco was also barraged with questions that same night. He told us that it had been very disgusting in the dense forest where Greyback's pack was. Before, he had called on Greyback by owl and had hired him for money to help free the Death Eaters from Azkaban who had been captured after the fiasco in the Department of Mysteries. Going into the forest and gaining the pack as followers was something else, and so he had fought his way through mud, blood and stench. As it seemed they had lived out the full moon to the fullest, he recounted in disgust.
Well, Greyback had been pleased that the Dark Lord remembered him and sent an emissary as high-born as Draco right away and the two had come to an agreement very quickly. Greyback would return to the fold of the Lord's followers with his pack. That meant that Draco too had passed his task with flying colours and had carried it out to our master's satisfaction.
The next day, my successful deed made headlines in the press, which reported that the Brockdale Bridge had collapsed. The Muggle news said it was technical failure, construction defects that had caused the ten-year-old bridge to fail. There had been a few deaths and injuries, people who had tried to cross the bridge in their cars and were crushed and squashed in their vehicles, or drowned in the floodwaters of the river. The number was relatively small, though I thought that one was already too many! I didn't really let that get to me; I couldn't and wasn't allowed to see that I had caused the deaths of innocent people, even if I had thoroughly lost my appetite and so I drank my coffee tensely that morning.
The days went by faster and faster. The tension grew and Hogwarts drew inexorably closer. We shopped and prepared ourselves. There was also the odd training session, in which I showed Lucius or Severus together with Draco what I could do. Both men were very pleased with how I was developing, even though Lucius had never competed against me. For whatever reason, he had always managed to sidestep that.
We had all received our O.W.L. results. Harry had got top marks in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Exceeds Expectations in most of the other subjects, even Astronomy, where we'd all been so distracted by Umbridge trying to arrest Hagrid and McGonagall getting hurt by the Stupefys. All I could say then was, hats off. That made me overlook the fact that he had failed Divination and the History of Magic, as was to be expected.
Ron had also flunked the same two subjects that Harry had failed, probably out of pure sympathy. He had passed the rest, albeit with poorer grades. We were also confirmed as Prefects and Harry received the badge that identified him as the new captain of the Quidditch team.
Blaise, Daphne, and Astoria had all passed, and with very good grades, and Draco was only one grade lower than me, which didn't annoy him at all... And me? Well, I had passed with top marks in ten O.W.L. exams. Only in Defence Against the Dark Arts did I have only the second best possible mark, the hilarity of which almost brought tears to my eyes, as I was probably more suited to attack than defence.
Draco was also confirmed and would once again be the male Prefect for Slytherin.
We went shopping in simple disguises. Ron went with his brothers and me. We would also buy the supplies for Harry, who stayed at home, as we assumed if anyone was still searching for him, they would look out for him buying his school supplies, and we wouldn't want the Order to find him now, would we?
Draco went with Blaise, Daphne and Astoria. We had planned everything with military precision and so it all went like clockwork. Harry finally got the wardrobe he was entitled to and which Draco had insisted on. He had been terribly upset about Harry's worn-out clothes, had precociously explained:
"Potter, your family used to be purebloods and you're dating a pureblood, so at least dress like you're representing something!" And when the girls agreed with him, Harry had just lowered his head and nodded obediently. Well, you shouldn't start arguing with Draco about clothes - he was an incredible peacock, just like his father. He had drawn up a list for me and the Twins that we had to follow meticulously if we were to buy Harry's clothes from the tailor. According to the list, I had the feeling that he wanted to dress Harry exactly as he himself walked around, to which Harry loudly objected, in which I supported him.
"I think it's perfectly fine to dress myself in new clothes," my best friend explained. "I mean, those worn out shirts are really awful, but I'm not going to run around in a jacket, for sure. If my clothes look more grown up and are new, that should do it. Please Hermione!" he whined pleadingly. I nodded and agreed with him aloud.
"I think so too, new trousers and shirts and polo shirts to go with them, no more T-shirts except for sports and nice leather shoes, nice good jumpers, that should be enough!" I then looked at Draco challengingly and he finally, after a brief stare-down, crossed his arms in front of his chest and reluctantly gave in. I guess he understood that he couldn't copy his style one-to-one on Harry. Gosh, it had been unbearable, but the Twins had been far too enthusiastic about it and eagerly helped Draco to make a new list and measure poor Harry, who I felt sorry for from the bottom of my heart.
All the shopping took forever. I knew the Slytherins were finished sooner than we were, as the tailor alone took hours, but we were also buying a completely new wardrobe. The Twins, who thanks to their business were almost swimming in money, felt obliged to share some of their wealth with Ron and so he got new clothes too, which almost brought tears to the good guy's eyes, even though he tried not to show it., covering it up and playing it cool by acting very controlled with his arms folded behind his back. So we actually bought two complete wardrobes.
The feeling of visiting Diagon Alley was not as carefree as it used to be. Some shops were abandoned and boarded up as their owners had disappeared and never resurfaced. Posters urging people to be safe or seeking known Death Eaters adorned every vacant spot in the alley. Many movable stalls or booths offered protective items against curses and hexes, although I wouldn't trust the figures offering these items. All the passers-by we saw seemed slightly rushed and quickly did only what was necessary and then hurried back home.
Finally, late in the afternoon, when we entered Weasley's Wizarding Jokes, I believed we'd made it, but the Twins didn't think so and handed us dark cloaks in the back of an office. It was to be Ron's first time in Knockturn Alley, which was as gloomy as ever.
The Twins had explained to an astonished Ron that it was all well and good that he had been using one of their old school wands so far, but they needed it themselves now that he was going back to school and they couldn't let him have one of their spare wands permanently. In such troubled times, you never know and so they had decided to get Ron a second wand as well, to gift him one. When Ron wanted to protest, they just said tersely that he wouldn't get any more presents that year and that it would be stupid to save on the wand, and Ron's mouth shut, because he agreed with them and so did I. Blaise must have talked to the Twins that I agreed that Ron should now become a full member of our group.
Ron's time under Blaise's aegis had done him good. He had moulted into a stately, strong young man; he had lost all the lankiness and awkwardness of the last few years and thanks to the strength training with the weights he had gained an impressive broad back. He looked very strong, which was easy to see under the black cloak, appearing quite beefy, and many of the hooded figures of Knockturn Alley gave him cautious, appraising and very suspicious looks.
Ron's wand, given to him by Ollivander after he had scraped his old inherited one in the second year of school, was willow wood with a unicorn hair and did him good service, but it was still subject to the Ministry's surveillance.
When, after a relatively short search at Mr. Stock's, we found and acquired a wand made of vine wood with a phoenix feather as its core for Ron as an unregistered wand, I was genuinely surprised.
He was really excited. Unlike his brothers, he had not only changed the core material, but also the wood. He had the wood of my school wand, which cheered me up, as vine wood had a mythological and symbolic connotation that was very meaningful: overcoming oneself for sincerity. As a Bach flower, the power of the vine was supposed to promote inner magnanimity, and help overcome false pride; together with the phoenix feather, a very fitting wand for Ron, as the phoenix, when bonded to a person, proved to be their most loyal companion. I found it exciting that he thus combined my and Harry's school wands in his.
Ron was completely floored by the generosity of his big brothers, but also by the fact that he, like Harry and probably the Dark Lord as we knew, was now the proud owner of a wand that contained a phoenix feather. Ron seemed to be pulling himself together very much for Harry to be so magically aligned.
I was completely floored for an entirely different reason. We - Harry, Ron and I - were the only ones who had completely switched wands, which made me wonder how much we had changed over the last few years, that our priorities had shifted so much. The fact that we had apparently turned 180 degrees magically, which was completely true for us, was exciting and our views had really changed fundamentally.
I mean, the Twins had always been sly devils and the Slytherins had never changed much in themselves. They had mostly been the way they were now, finding their places but always slithering through life like the snakes they were. We, on the other hand, had been asked to do a lot and had had to twist and turn our world view.
Ever since the Twins realised that Ron had been chosen by a wholly different wand, they looked as if they had swallowed one of their own creations with a surly expression on their faces! I was curious to find out how the new wand did in Ron's hand.
When we got back, though, it was time for a fashion show first, as Harry felt a bit left behind with only the owls for company, so we all tried to cheer him up. One thing had to be said: Harry and Ron would cause quite a stir among the residents at Hogwarts with their new, chic outfits. Harry looked at the Twins gratefully for opening the purse strings for their brother. Eventually Draco urged me to return home as dinner was due and woe betide us if we were late.
That evening Lucius revealed to us that Fudge's days as Minister of Magic were numbered and that he would be stepping down, which almost made me choke on my steak. I mean, I didn't like Fudge, but that he was leaving, wow, I didn't expect that. Lucius told us in detail that Fudge had not been able to hold on and that he would, however, remain in the service of the Ministry as assistant to the new Minister.
When Lucius announced that the new Minister of Magic would be Rufus Scrimgeour, who had been the Head Auror until then, it happened and I choked after all, which brought me the unwanted attention of everyone. But hey, I was only human and knowing that I had something on the new minister before I had even seen him in person, well, that could make one's mouth water. So my diabolical thoughts turned to Scrimgeour, who I knew, thanks to that old toad Umbridge, was having an extramarital affair with the mother of that garrulous tattletale called Marietta, the good Mrs Edgecombe, who also worked in the Ministry at the Floo Network Authority.
I regained my composure and knew this information was just what I needed. How I loved to know more than others! There was nothing better. On the other hand, I hadn't yet found out what Umbridge knew about Percy that we all didn't... I was therefore distracted when Lucius informed us that the new head of the Auror's Office was Gawain Robards, which I only noted in passing.
We also learned that the new Minister's first act was to better protect the Muggle Prime Minister after the failed attempt to place his close associate under an Imperius. Therefore, Kingsley Shacklebolt was installed as a new staff member in the Prime Minister's antechamber to play his bodyguard.
Lucius showed some annoyance at this because, unlike with Thicknesse, he had not been able to control who became Fudge's successor. He knew the former Auror Scrimgeour would not be guided and bought like Fudge, because Scrimgeour was a decisive man of action, whereas the self-absorbed and bribable Fudge had been much easier to steer. Poor Lucius, I could only think.